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The word "Weather" is considered a non-countable noun, and there is a grammar rule that tells you not to use indefinite articles in front of non-countable nouns, but instead quantifiers such as "some" or "a lot". However, is it grammatically correct to put an indefinite article if there is an adjecive behind the non-countable noun?

Example: We had an awful weather.

Is that grammatically correct or should you say "We had awful weather"

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  • Don't attach too much importance to that "rule". It's certainly possible to refer to weather using the indefinite article (see written instances of {Some place} has a pleasant weather). It's just that we don't normally include a in such contexts. Feb 14, 2021 at 15:22
  • '[T]here is a grammar rule that tells you not to use indefinite articles in front of non-countable nouns': NO. This needs downgrading to a rule-of-thumb. 'The director spoke at the meeting today with an enormous enthusiasm.' / 'A paralyzing horror overwhelmed him.' / 'She smiled at us with an unusual friendliness.' / 'Being a lorry-driver certainly requires a command of the language' / 'an education that gives students the skills they need for life' See this ELU thread. Feb 14, 2021 at 15:32
  • ... Usages, not nouns, are count / non-count ('the two most important coffees commercially are robusta and arabica' / 'coffee is his favourite drink'). Numeral-insertion is the test for count / non-count usages: *'The director spoke at the meeting today with six enormous enthusiasms.' / *'Four paralyzing horrors overwhelmed him.' / *'She smiled at us with two unusual friendlinesses.' Feb 14, 2021 at 15:34

3 Answers 3

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Weather is not one of the non-count (mass) nouns that can be preceded by an indefinite article; we would never say 'We had an awful weather', only, as you suggest, 'We had awful weather'. It is possible to use the definite article 'the' before 'weather' when discussing a particular example, e.g.'The weather last Monday/on my trip/in London/last summer was awful'.

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  • Hello! Thanks for pointing that out. I can agree with you that the examples I've used weren't that great. My point is that are you allowed to put indefinite articles to non countable nouns if there is an adjective before it EVEN though non-countable nouns can't have indefinite articles? Thanks again, and please tell me if I misunderstood anything.
    – Jackson
    Feb 14, 2021 at 17:17
  • @Jackson "are you allowed to put indefinite articles to non countable nouns if there is an adjective before it" - well, you can't say 'a hot weather'. Feb 14, 2021 at 18:40
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It is correct that you can refer to an individual spell of weather using the indefinite article; however, "we had an awful weather" is not at all idiomatic.

The most common example of a non-countable noun is water. You can refer to "a litre of water" or "a glass of water", because there is a measure being used. You can't say "a weather" because it doesn't make sense; you would have to introduce some kind of measure.

For example:

  • We had an awful day's weather.
  • We had an awful spell of weather.
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  • Thanks for pointing that out!
    – Jackson
    Feb 14, 2021 at 17:19
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In some rare cases, yes. In your example about weather, I would say no.

We might use the indefinite article when referring to a specifically described example of a mass noun. For example,

...thickly carpeted by a fine gray dust.

... covered with a brilliant white sand composed of fragments ground to powder...

...then beaten with the dhenki or pestle, which reduces it to a coarse flour...

...the two purifying tanks were found full, one with a clear blue water...

But (in my opinion as a native US English speaker) this usage is old-fashioned and slightly formal. All of these examples would be just as clear and correct without the article, and if you have any question, leave out the article. Weather in particular sounds like a general phenomenon, not something that you would have a specific example of.

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  • Thanks for answering!
    – Jackson
    Feb 14, 2021 at 17:19

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